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Buying a wheelset online? Are the wheels preassembled?(9 posts)

Buying a wheelset online? Are the wheels preassembled?VictorChan
Aug 6, 2001 7:25 PM
Just looking and shopping around for a wheelset but not really buying it. I have a question though. Is the wheelset preassembled when shipped to me? I am looking at several vendors like Performance and SuperGo.

Parts is Parts...Whatever
Aug 6, 2001 8:29 PM
...and wheels are assemblies made up of those parts. If you are buying a wheel, you are getting a hub, a rim, and a bunch spokes and spoke nipples that have been assembled into a complete wheel. All of those parts are also available separately, except for a few high-end goodies that are only available with complete wheels.

So you don't need to worry about ordering a wheel and getting a bunch of parts with instructions. What you might want to spend your time evaluating are the following points:

(1) Handbuilt vs. machine built. Many people swear that hand built wheels are stronger and will stay true longer than their machine built equivalents. I do not have first hand knowledge as to why, maybe others can lend some insight here.

(2) Includes skewers? Some wheelsets include skewers, others don't. When you are comparing, this affects both price and weight, so make sure you are comparing apples to apples here.

I am sure that others can lend some additional insight here.
Parts is Parts...LC
Aug 6, 2001 9:35 PM
You would think that a Open Pro rim on a Ultegra Hub with 32 DB spokes at shop A would be the exact same wheel with the same parts at shop B, but my experience has been otherwise. Both my front and rear wheels bought mail order 1 year ago at Performance have had multiple spokes break. The wheel came not quite round and the spoke tension was uneven. I have had to constantly retrue the wheel after every ride over 40 miles. My over two year old wheels of the same parts, but built by Wheelsmith came perfectly trued and round and I have not had a single spoke break on either wheel and they are still true.

What you are really paying for is a master wheel builder that really knows what he is doing, instead of a kid making minimum wage, that was working at Burger King last week. I tried to save money, but it actually ended up costing me more and also major frustration.
Aug 7, 2001 5:53 AM
If you are buying "wheels", then they are preassembled and should be ready to ride. Otherwise, you would be buying separate parts, which you don't want to do, unless you are ready to buy some equipment and spend a lot of time learning wheel building.

why handbuilt is better:Rusty McNasty
Aug 7, 2001 7:10 AM
A wheelbuilder will check to make sure ALL the spokes have been stress-relieved before sending the wheel out. Machine-built wheels rarely do this, and do a lousy job, otherwise. A properly-built wheel will be true the day you get it, and many miles later, too. It will not go "plink-plink-plink-plink" the first time you stand on the pedals.
Machine-built wheels are cheaper, but you MUST retrue them right after the first short ride, and probably several times within the first 200 miles of use. Failure to do so will result in spoke breakage, hub flange failure, etc., etc. Pay the extra $$ (sometimes even LESS than boutique wheels) for a hand-built wheel, and you won't have to worry about it.
not always trueDog
Aug 7, 2001 7:24 AM
I realize that this is but one example, but recently instead of purchasing American Classic wheels prebuilt (I imagine they do it by hand, anyway), I bought the parts through my LBS and had them build them. The rear wheel was horrible. I've recounted the story here a couple of times, but the bottom line is that the spokes on the first ride (three times) loosened so much they nearly fell out, and the wheel went so far out of true that it was nearly unrideable and dangerous. After 2 attempts to fix it, it still had problems. Then, they rebuilt it totally. I've not ridden it since then.

So, hand built could be good, but it does depend upon the skill of the builder. You may want to get some references. BTW, I've never had any problems with manufactured wheels, including Open Pros, 3 sets of Ksyriums, Nucleons, Zipp 303's, and Velomax Ascent Pros (some may have been handbuilt at their factories, I suppose), not to mention several sets of mountain bike wheels. Check the reviews here, too.

I'm not sure you can fairly generalize one way or the other concerning quality control of manufactured vs. local hand built. I suppose the one advantage of local is that if there is a problem, you can have them fix it (or try to) more easily.

did they have a WHEELBUILDER?Rusty McNasty
Aug 7, 2001 8:48 AM
Or did they just give the job to "junior"? WHEELBUILDING is a distinct profession, which requires considerable training. Just because you asked a bike shop to build you a wheel, that doesn't mean that a wheelbuilder did it. I have found that probably 2/3 of all bike shops don't BUILD wheels, they merely ASSEMBLE them if asked.
Find a better shop-those guys are hacks.
one good thing about machine-built wheelsJofa
Aug 7, 2001 7:59 AM
They use a ram to remove the preload from the spokes, by pushing the rim inwards, as they tension each spoke. This means that spoke wind-up is rarely a problem. As you say, the big problem is stress-relieving; but average machine built wheels are still invariably better than poorly made handbuilt ones.
Thanks for the answers.VictorChan
Aug 7, 2001 8:39 AM